Intergenerational dialogue is a central tenet of the American Jewish Peace Archive.
AJPA director Aliza Becker facilitated a dialogue between two generations of activists on December 15, 2015. The elders were leaders of Breira from 1973-1978: (L to R) Arthur Samuelson, editor of the group's newsletter InterChange; John Ruskay, a lead organizer; and Bob Loeb, founding executive director. The young adults are leaders of newer initiatives: (L to R) Simone Zimmerman, IfNotNow founder and former J Street U national president; Andrew Gordon-Kirsch, IfNotNow founder and former J Street U organizer; and Rachel Sandalow-Ash, co-founder and director of Open Hillel. A video is forthcoming.
J Street National Conference
Youth Activism From One Generation to the Next
March 23, 2015
presented by the American Jewish Peace Archive
Shortly after the 1967 Six Day War and the beginning of the settlement enterprise, young Jews across the US opposed Israel’s occupation and supported Palestinian self-determination at a time when there was negligible support for the idea. Among the earliest proponents were activists from the Jewish Student/Youth Movement, a loose network of campus and young adults groups that addressed a range of contemporaneous issues through a Jewish progressive lens. Members of this movement will share stories from the era and lessons learned. A recent J Street U board member will reflect on the significance of earlier efforts for the work of present-day activists.
Kenneth Bob, Member, Radical Jewish Union; Former President, Habonim; President, Ameinu; Member, J Street Board of Directors
Cherie Brown, Member, Los Angeles Jewish Radical Community; Training Director, Shalom Network; Member, New Jewish Agenda Board of Directors; Vice President, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom
Rachel Cohen, Former Member, J Street U National Board; Writing Fellow, The American Prospect
Robbie Skeist, Founding Member, Chutzpah Jewish Liberation Collective; Founding President, Chicago Friends of Peace Now
Moderator: Aliza Becker, Director, American Jewish Peace Archive
L’dor Vador, from Generation to Generation in Hebrew, refers to the collaborative relationship between generations of Jews.
As a young activist, it is so easy for my generation to imagine that we are fighting a battle against elders who have betrayed us. The American Jewish Peace Archive lets us know otherwise by connecting young activists to those who for decades have worked for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine and for open and honest conversations in the United States. It enables us to learn from the experiences of older activists and to build an intergenerational movement that provides for support and mentorship across generations.
Rachel Sandalow-Ash (Harvard '15), co-founder and national organizer, Open Hillel
I believe that at the core of the Jewish tradition is a rich practice of debate and of wrestling with our history. It is deeply inspiring to me that I can contribute to that not just by fighting for a different kind of future in the community and in Israel-Palestine, but ensuring right now through AJPA that this work is a history that people will hear one day.
Simone Zimmerman, founder of IfNotNow, former J Street U national president
Learning the history of previous generations of activists has opened my eyes to the continuity present in this struggle. These generations spoke out against the problems they saw in the institutions that claimed to represent them. Yet, they held a sacred engagement with Jewish identity and a commitment to thinking critically independent of policies of Jewish institutions or leftist political agendas. In doing so, they changed the Jewish community. Their endorsement of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was radical in their time, but today it is the majority position. Their work began to open a conversation in the Jewish community about the Diaspora relationship to Israel that continues to this day.
We are taking part in a long tradition of yearning for change and acting to turn our ideals into our realities. The words of the activists themselves in the American Jewish Peace Archive gave me a richer impression of their world and their work than other histories could. Most of all it gives me the inspiration to work to write the next chapter.
Elena Hoffenberg (Harvard '16), former AJPA Intern
Speaking on the panel "Youth Activism From One Generation to the Next" at the 2015 J Street Conference enabled me to relive and reassess important experiences from 40 years ago and relate them to our present critical time. I believe that those of us who organized successfully early on were able to integrate a strong leftist with a strong Jewish identity. We studied the issues deeply, identified and fought anti-semitism, spread our positions through "underground newspapers," community debates, public demonstrations, and strategic outreach to the mainstream media and made great friends to sustain us.
As Jews, we learn stories from the past intimately; they offer insight and inspiration for the present, help us to make different decisions than were made before or to intentionally again pursue something that worked. But stories are also sacred in their message that all paths to liberation are exceedingly long, harried, and built on each generation's best guess. Learning the stories of activists before me helps me know my mesorah - where and who I come from - and makes clear that the blood, sweat, and prayers of others are what make my own struggle possible.
Zahara Zahav, Program Manager and Organizer, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership